One of the things I often hear from people is that they don’t know “how to” give a massage.
The concept of a massage implies that there is a “how to”, some way of doing it, a sense of getting it right or wrong. Massage suggests a form or structure to be followed, technique and so on. And this can be wonderful to learn (lord knows I’ve invested enough time and energy over the years in doing so!). However, it can also get in the way of enjoying one of the most basic and yet alchemical human experiences… touch.
Someone can have studied a massage form, but if they are not really present with the experience they may have a poor quality of touch. Whereas someone else might have no concept of massage technique but their loving presence makes their touch rich with aliveness and sensitivity.
It is this presence and aliveness that makes touch a truly ecstatic and exquisite experience. It is the meeting of two beings in an encounter of skin on skin.
It is well documented that babies require touch and loving physical contact in order to develop and grow into healthy children.
“Touch is in fact food. With regards to bodywork and massage, skin to skin contact, when slowly and sensitively applied, is as vital to our development as mothers milk.” ~Bernhard Guenther
However, as we grow from children to adults, we can become “touch deprived”. If we have a lover, partner or good friend who enjoys physical intimacy then we may have the opportunity to share loving touch on a regular basis. But many people are not in this position and so have a deep yearning to touch and be touched.
There is an alchemical force – a magic – in the moment when touch is offered with loving presence, an open heart and no expectation of what needs to or should happen.
So I was inspired to share 3 pathways to transform your touch into an ecstatic experience…
1. Touch yourself
Many people are so keen to get their hands on someone else’s body, that they have no idea how their own touch feels. It may feel a bit funny at first to touch yourself. But if you can’t enjoy connecting with your own body – and know what feels good – then how can you really give to another?
Start simply with your forearm. With your other hand, explore different kinds of strokes – using first the palm of your hand to sweep over the skin for a few moments, then a light caress with the tops of your fingertips. Experiment with different speeds and notice what feels good. It’s quite common for people to rush their touch so see how slowly you can stroke over your skin and become exquisitely aware of the sensations.
Notice the difference between stroking downward on the arm (towards your hand) and upwards (towards your heart). Become aware of the different textures on the outside of the arm (the part that is exposed more often to the sun and elements) and the inside of the arm (the soft tender parts that are less exposed).
There is so much to experience just on an arm! Once you have spent time here, take your exploration of touch all round the rest of your body. Include every part, don’t leave anything out!
2. Open your mouth and breathe
Often when we get stuck in our heads with thoughts (such as “Am I doing this right?” “Do they like it? What should I do next?”), we are quite literally stuck in our heads. The jaw is tense and clamped shut and the breath is shallow or being held.
The simplest way to release this stuckness is to open your mouth and relax your jaw, which creates a corresponding openness in the pelvic area. Take deep breaths right down into your belly, allowing each exhale to be released from your mouth with a sigh (or a growl or an ‘ahhhh’ if that’s how you’re feeling!)
Once you’ve done this a few times you will notice that you feel more relaxed and at ease (if not then keep breathing fully and deeply until you do!). Breath gives us ‘inspiration’ (literally “the breath of spirit”) so there’s no need to think of “what to do” next. Let the breath guide the way.
3. Let their body massage yours
In massage there is a tendency to think that one person is ‘doing’ the massage to the other. And if someone books with a professional therapist this is entirely appropriate and correct.
However, when touch is being shared between friends or lovers, then we can be open to the idea that both share in the enjoyment of the experience. As much as you are massaging them with your hands, they are massaging your hands with their body.
As your hands meet their body, allow yourself to revel in the contact. Really feel their skin touching yours. Receive feedback through your senses from their body as to what feels good. This ‘loop’ of feedback flowing from one to the other, transforms this experience from someone ‘doing’ something to the other, into a state of blissful being for both.
Break out of the pattern of massaging with only your hands and bring your whole body into the experience. Your forearms, your breath, your hair, your breasts/chest can all be delicious tools of pleasure and connection.
At our massage workshops many people say that giving the massage was just as nourishing and profound as receiving one – and this is the reason why!
“The skin is the surface of the brain; to touch the surface is to stir the depths. I cannot touch an organism’s skin anywhere without arousing that organism’s entirety. That is to say, the skin on one hand a primary boundary of our physical selves, and on the other hand a primary threshold of interactions that connect our inner world with the world around us in many ways. The stimulation of this threshold is as necessary to us as water, food, or oxygen. Without adequate stimulation of our skins we will languish. Infants sufficiently deprived of touch perish, regardless of being fed and sheltered. Slightly more, but still inadequate touch results in “deprivation dwarfism,” with severe abnormalities of development that closely mimic those caused by chronic malnutrition. Adults experimentally deprived of tactile sensations become psychologically deranged. There is indeed “something in the touch of flesh with flesh” without which we simply cannot thrive.” ~ Deane Juhan